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Do You Have a Place to Be, Just for You? The “Third Place”, According to Japanese People
As the life lesson previously taught by older people says, “Once you have a familiar shop you can unexpectedly stop by on your own, you have become an adult”; not limited to familiar bars, how many "places where you can be yourself" are there, such as a café, or somewhere you can perform communal activities with friends?
■The diligent Japanese
In response to the question “Do you have your ‘own place to be (third place)’, which is neither ‘home’ nor ‘work / school’” of the "Survey regarding one's place to be" conducted by YOMIKO Advertising Urban Economics Research Institute in 2014, 3 out of 4 Japanese (74.4%) answered "I do not have one".
On the other hand, what do we see abroad? For people in the UK, it is normal to drop by a pub on the way home from work, watching sports and loudly discussing hobbies with strangers over a drink. It is said that pub culture permeates society.
"Third places" exist in many European countries, and although they have become fewer in today’s Japan, in fact such spaces were all over the place just a little while ago. For instance, "sentō" (public bathhouses) are a typical example. When I was a child, I often went to a public bath; every day, there were many locals enjoying a soak, while amusing themselves with gossiping—the spectacle of so-called social bathing. Also, although remarkably I have not seen this recently, the veranda of old Japanese houses also served as a place for local people to have a chat.
Since there are no hierarchical or interest-based relationships in such places, interactions become straight-forward, without ulterior motives. Nowadays, I think that the exchanges in these places provided an ideal opportunity for children to learn the basics of communication, and that these were also places of education to learn about the local society.
■A place to meet the locals
The establishment that I casually stopped by the other day was pretty amazing, so I would like to introduce it here. This is the Cultural Creation Base "Sirius" in Yamato City, Kanagawa Prefecture.
■In search of the place to be
Well, I have rambled about "third place"; whether I can say for myself that I have a “third place” other than "home" and "work", I am afraid I cannot...
For example, in an izakaya the other day, as I was being taught how to fish by an 84-year-old essayist who supposedly knew Takeshi Kaikō, there was a "chain of communication", where a middle-aged surfer overheard our conversation and taught us the secret points of catching fish; then the shop owner, as if he was waiting for this topic, told us his recommended recipe. Inspired by this conversation, I went to try fishing the very next weekend.
The director Akira Kurosawa described the protagonist of the movie "To Live", who lives a busy life going back and forth between "home" and "work", with the words "as good as dead". In the story, he embarks to find "the meaning of life", inspired by the advice of people whom he does not usually mingle with; I think that surely this is what life is about.
In order to live life to the fullest, we need our own place to be. This is the conclusion of this article, and also the excuse I gave to my family when I hit the streets tonight, looking for another drink.